Putin Shows Signs of Panic, as He Calls on Ukraine Military to Mutiny

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the airwaves to try to speed up his victory in Ukraine.

This account is from The Guardian.

Looking dead-eyed into the camera on Friday, Vladimir Putin gave one of the most bizarre speeches of his 22 years as Russia’s leader, a directive that managed to sound alarming even in a week when he has ordered tanks into Ukraine and missile strikes on Kyiv.

“Once again I speak to the Ukrainian soldiers,” he said, addressing his enemy. “Do not allow neo-Nazis and Banderites to use your children, your wives and the elderly as a human shield. Take power into your own hands. It seems that it will be easier for us to come to an agreement than with this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”

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There is no doubt that the Russians retain the initiative for the moment, but the Russian military operation shows signs of entering entropy. The Ukrainian Army’s likelihood of conducting a coup supporting the Russian invasion also looks pretty slim.

What follows is my assessment based on open-source materials.

  • The Russian Army’s reach exceeded its grasp. Rather than creating a single hammer blow, the Russians elected for an overly complex attack along what appears to be four axes of advance. Unfortunately, none of the four axes are mutually supporting. Worse, the Russian Army has to create a logistics tail for each of its major attacks. The latter is not trivial. The most austere unit in the U.S. Army is a light infantry division with about 10,000 men. The front line strength in riflemen in that division is about 2,700. The other 7,300 support them. What the Russians viewed as a confusing multi-directional attack that would collapse Ukrainian resistance seems to be preventing Russia from using its numerical advantage. See Report: Russia Fails to Reach Objectives for First Day Amid Brave Ukrainian Defense.
  • Volodymyr Zelensky has become much more of a leader than anyone thought possible. A week ago, the smart money would have said that if Russia invaded, Zelensky would be on the first thing outbound. That hasn’t happened. Not only did he give a well-received speech trying to rally his countrymen, but he’s also been visible on the streets even though he is being hunted by Spetsnaz and GRU hit squads. See This Is Courage in Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian Army is overmatched, but it is not beaten and has not dissolved. The Ukrainian defense ministry is doing heroic service in distributing tales of Ukrainian heroism to the populace.
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  • The Ukrainian people are not welcoming the Russians, and if this operation draws out, Russia might find itself facing an effective and motivated insurgency. In fact, Putin has probably done more to build Ukrainian nationalism than anything in modern history.

None of this says Ukraine will prevail; what it does say is that the 48-hour blitzkrieg that culminated in Zelensky fleeing Kiev Putin planned doesn’t seem likely to materialize. As a result, Putin now is in the position of bringing this adventure to a swift conclusion or paying a much higher price than he’d intended.

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